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Ban on exit polls did not serve its ‘ultimate purpose’

Ban on exit polls did not serve its ‘ultimate purpose’
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First Published: Tue, Aug 04 2009. 11 12 PM IST

Losing relevance: Psephologist N. Bhaskara Rao says the quality of surveys has fallen in India, particularly in the last decade. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
Losing relevance: Psephologist N. Bhaskara Rao says the quality of surveys has fallen in India, particularly in the last decade. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
Updated: Tue, Aug 04 2009. 11 12 PM IST
New Delhi: The Election Commission’s ban on exit polls during the recent general election did not serve its ultimate purpose, N. Bhaskara Rao, psephologist and chairman of Centre for Media Studies, said on Tuesday.
“Earlier, I agreed with the commission. But while writing the book, I felt that this ban had not served the ultimate purpose, even though I do understand the concern behind it,” Rao said.
Losing relevance: Psephologist N. Bhaskara Rao says the quality of surveys has fallen in India, particularly in the last decade. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
He was referring to a book he has authored, titled ‘A Handbook of Poll Surveys in Media—An Indian Perspective’, which will be launched on Wednesday. “It is unfair to expect the media not to cover something. Instead, alternative ways should be suggested,” Rao said.
He said the quality of surveys has fallen in India, particularly in the last decade. “We need to bring back the glory and relevance of surveys, which can actually help deepen our democracy,” Rao said.
The book, which has sections devoted to media coverage of elections and use of poll surveys over the years, the anatomy and role of surveys, exit polls, illusion of poll surveys, etc., says the media coverage of 2009 election perhaps signals a rethink about poll surveys on their part.
An expert said he agreed with Rao that surveys have lost credibility, largely because of the fact that they can be manipulated.
“As a matter of principle, pre-poll surveys can be useful to understand ground realities. But what has now happened is that surveys can be manipulated. People’s views can also be modified with lucrative offers, etc.,” said Bidyut Chakrabarty, professor at the department of political science, Delhi University. “These are the kinds of situations Bhaskar Rao is highlighting. In fact, he must be complimented for raising such a pertinent issue.”
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First Published: Tue, Aug 04 2009. 11 12 PM IST